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Intimidation of leaders during collective bargaining at Carbones del Cerrejón

22 January, 2013IndustriALL Global Union has written to the Colombian president to protest at the threats made against the leaders of Sintracarbón trade union, who are negotiating with the company over working conditions.

Negotiations between Sintracarbón and Carbones del Cerrejón have been accompanied by threats against union leaders and their families. The interim deadline for completing negotiations was Saturday 19 January and there is still no green light for negotiations to continue.

On 6, 7 and 8 January, unidentified individuals phoned the home of Aldo Raúl Amaya, union treasurer, and warned him to be careful. Members of his family have also been threatened in this way. In addition, he has seen armed individuals in the proximity of his home.

On 10 January, the wife of Igor Kareld, who is national president of Sintracarbon and a member of the World Executive Committee, received a call on his mobile phone. The person calling addressed Igor by his name and said he knew the daily routines of his daughters. Igor had already received a direct threat at a working session of the negotiating committee on 18 July 2012, when he was curtly told to leave the country along with his family by a certain date.

All these threats have taken place at the same as negotiations have proceeded between Sintracarbón and the mining company. The interim deadline for completing negotiations was 19 January. This is followed by 20 days for voting. The workers will go on strike if no agreement has been reached within this period.

Sintracarbón said it cannot sign an agreement based on the conditions that the company is imposing. The company is owned by the transnational companies Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Xstrata-Glencore and is refusing to offer fair terms to the very people who guarantee the mine’s profitability by working daily shifts of 12 hours in a difficult environment.

The company has made three proposals, none of which have acceded to union demands for a 3% pay rise. Acceptance of the company proposals would mean giving up the just demands presented on 29 December 2012, which were mainly focused on improving conditions for outsourced workers and the community.

IndustriaALL has written to the Colombian president, José Manuel Santos, expressing its concern about the repeated acts of violence against members of Sintracarbón. The letter calls on the competent authorities to identify those responsible and guarantee the right to life and the freedom of association of workers at Carbones del Cerrejón. It also asks Carbones del Cerrejón Limited to provide the necessary guarantees to the affected workers and explicitly declare its support for free collective bargaining in peaceful and free conditions.